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I Wanna Show My Gratitude*

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As I post this, it’s Thanksgiving in the US. If you know that tradition, then you know it’s usually associated with big family meals (especially with turkey as the main course) and travel. Well….I’m doing the travel thing this year, but I’m not celebrating the way I usually do, since I’m out of the country.

Still, there are lots of things I’m grateful for this week, and this seems like a good time to mention some of them. Besides my family…..


I Am Grateful For…



That’s right, you. You folks are a constant source of support, inspiration and friendship, and I am grateful for that. This year in particular I’m grateful for you, because of your kind help with my research. If it weren’t for your help, I couldn’t have done the study that brought me to this conference; so really, I’ve brought you with me. Thank you for that, and for being friends with me.


The University of Auckland

The University of Auckland has done a terrific job of playing hosts to us delegates from all over the world. Friendly, helpful people, lovely surroundings, and generosity about the use of facilities, have made the conference a real success.


Paardekooper and Associates

These consummate experts at events and conferences have made sure that everything ran smoothly. Questions? Answered. Lost? Found. Timing? Spot on. Delegates? Fully informed about everything. Attitude? Always professional and friendly. Every time. Food? Erm – let’s just say I’m not weighing myself for at least a month after I get back…


The Language, Education and Diversity Conference Organising Committee

The Committee did a fantastic job of inviting interesting plenary speakers, including a wide variety of perspectives, and creating a well-structured conference that allowed for a lot of learning. I’m returning to the US with plenty of new ideas. The committee chose a group of informed and interesting presenters. And they chose me, too.


P.B. Technologies

This is a great computer sales and service company. Picture this: you’re in another country at a conference when your laptop crashes. By crashing, I mean not even a welcome screen. What do you do? I was lucky to find P.B. Technologies. High-quality customer service, fair prices, quick solutions, problem solved. Easy as. My computer still needs some more work, but if it weren’t for the good people at P.B., I’d probably have to buy a new laptop.


Hotel Pullman Auckland

Top-notch, friendly, professional service, even when you’re bedraggled, dirty, exhausted and cranky after twenty hours of travel. Terrific online connectivity centre, comfortable, quiet rooms with nice little touches of luxury. The professionals there do more than just their jobs. They make real efforts to ensure that each guest’s needs are met. And they do it without fanfare.


Often enough we’re quick to complain when things don’t go right. I’m guilty myself, at times. But it’s just as important, to me anyway, to say ‘thanks’ when things go very well.

To all my US readers, Happy Thanksgiving! To all of you, wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, my best to you!


*Note: The title of this post is a line from Paul McCartney’s Gratitude.


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Checking in With Your Special Reporter ;-)


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Check-In Time ;-)

Hotel QuizAs I post this, I’m staying in a very nice hotel. It’s a treat to be in a beautiful city, have your room tidied for you, and get some great food and drink. In fact, staying in a hotel has got me thinking about…




…a quiz!!! Don’t look at me that way! I didn’t force you to visit this blog, did I? ;-)

Hotels figure into a lot of crime fiction. And as a dedicated crime fiction fan, you know all of those ‘hotel stories,’ don’t you? Or do you? Take this handy quiz and find out. Match each question with the correct answer and see how many you get right.

Ready? Ring for the concierge to begin…  if you dare ;-)




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Another Feeling, A Different Culture*

Culture in Crime FictionIf you’re kind enough to read this blog on a regular basis, you may remember that I’m working on some research into the way crime fiction teaches idioms, language and culture. One set of questions I asked in this research has to do with readers’ interest in culture. Are readers aware of and interested in the cultural details and context that they encounter in their crime fiction? Here are a few things I found when I looked at the data that you folks were kind enough to help me get.

One question I asked was whether crime fiction readers choose novels because of their cultural content. That is, do readers choose a novel because it’s set in one or another cultural context?


Novels Based on Culture


As you see, culture is an important factor in choice of book, at least among the participants in this study. One hundred seven (just over 86%) of the 124 participants said that they often or sometimes choose a crime novel because it’s set in a different culture. This, to me, suggests strongly that crime fiction readers are interested in other cultures and in cultural content.

It’s one thing to be interested in culture. It’s another to follow up on that interest. So I also asked about topics that readers explore further after they’ve read a crime novel. I wanted to see whether readers are interested enough in culture and language to look up extra information and read more. Here’s what I found.
Culture and Further Exploration


Of the 124 participants, 65 (52%) said they look up further information on culture or idioms/language. This certainly isn’t an overwhelming trend. But it does suggest that readers are interested in learning more about culture, and that crime fiction may play a role in sparking that interest.

Regardless of whether readers want to explore culture in depth, it seems very clear from the data I examined that readers do want cultural authenticity in their crime fiction. I asked participants how important it is to them that their crime fiction represent culture in authentic ways. Here was the response:


Cultural Authenticity


It’s very clear that readers find authenticity important; 114 (almost 92%) of this study’s participants reported that it’s either very or somewhat important to them that their crime fiction be culturally authentic. To me, this implies that culture is interesting and important enough that readers want it portrayed accurately. It seems that, just as readers want their characters to be believable and the plot elements to be credible, they also want the cultural context to be realistic.


In Other News…


I’m planning to present this data at a conference next week. Where? I thought it might be fun to invite you to use your own detective skills to find out. So I’ve invented a little game/competition. Here’s how it will work:

  • Each day, beginning today, I’ll provide one clue as to my destination.

  • Anyone who’s interested is invited to put the clues together and see if you can work out where I’ll be.

  • The first person to get the right answer wins!


What’s the prize?

I will write a special short crime story just for the winner. That means the winner gets to tell me where the story will take place, what kinds of major characters are involved, and so forth. I’ll use those details and write the story. Then, I’ll post it right here on this blog.

If you’re the winner, you can send me a ‘photo to inspire the story, or you can simply tell me what you want the story to be about; you can even have me put you in the story if you wish. I only have two conditions: I won’t write ‘torture porn’ or extremely violent kinds of stories; and I won’t write stories in which harm is done to children or animals. Otherwise, I will be your ‘story genie’ ;-)

Wanna play??

Here is your first clue:




I will need this in order to get where I’m going. Good luck!


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Sass Jordan’s Going Back Again.


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Nous Sommes Tout de Parisiens

French Flag Half MastDetermination – grit, if you will – is one of those deeply embedded human traits that cuts across cultures and across times. It’s enabled humans to survive terrible ordeals and go on after them. It’s part of what’s kept us alive as a species. I’m sure that we could all offer dozens of examples of people who’ve kept going in the face of a lot of reasons not to go on.

There are all kinds of examples from crime fiction, too, of characters who show that sort of determination – far too many for me to list here. We admire them for their ability to survive and, crucially, to move on.  Those characters reflect what we want to think of ourselves. And we identify with them because they represent part of what is good in human nature.

The people of Paris are showing that determination as they come to grips with the awful attacks that happened there yesterday. To all of them, please know that you are not alone in your determination. Millions of the rest of us stand with you in your resolve. We grieve your losses with you, too, and wish you peace and healing.

Life in Paris will go on, despite the attacks. The destruction will be repaired, and people will not stop going to work and school, planning their futures, and living their lives. The healing will take time, and life won’t be the same for those who lost loved ones and friends. The city has suffered real trauma. But Paris will not give up. I admire that grit. Those responsible for the attacks have not succeeded in frightening Paris into submission. They have only made the city more determined to go on.

There’s another kind of resolve, too, that is an important part of human nature. That’s the resolution not to lose our humanity. There are numerous stories, some just coming out, and some still to come, of people helping one another, even in the midst of the attacks. And all around the world, millions of others are banding together, looking for ways to reach out. In large and small ways, the people of Paris and those who stand with them are showing that we can be compassionate and humane, even in the face of inhumanity. I admire that kind of determination as well. It shows that, even in the midst of such brutality, people do not have to give up their humanity.

As the search for the attackers gets underway, and as those affected begin to rebuild, I hope we will hold on to those two kinds of determination. Rebuilding, getting on with life, bringing the attackers to justice, and not being defeated is one kind. Refusing to stop being human, and not allowing ourselves to be defined by terrorism, is another.

My thoughts and wishes for strength, hope and healing go out to the people of Paris at this time. Nous sommes tout de Parisiens.


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